Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Welcome to the Morning Buzz, PRRI’s daily dose of religion-related news with a shot of data — because what doesn’t liven up a morning round-up like some public opinion numbers?
Check out Robert P. Jones’s latest article for The Atlantic, “The Racial Tensions Lurking Under the Surface of American Society,” in which he explores how changing public attitudes about race have pushed racial tensions below the surface.
The New York Times profiles the faith-based legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom, which recently represented the town of Greece N.Y. in the Supreme Court case over the right to begin town meetings with prayer. Founded and funded by Christian leaders, including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ’s Bill Bright, the legal powerhouse has a $40 million dollar budget with which it fights to advance conservative Christian causes through the legal system.
Arkansas became the first Bible Belt state to issue same-sex marriage licenses when a court overturned the state’s 2004 constitutional ban against same-sex marriage last Friday. Approximately fifteen same-sex couples were able to tie the knot on Saturday before the state’s Attorney General filed an appeal asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to review the ruling. Nearly half of Southerners (48 percent) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally marry.
Pope Francis announced that the beatification of Pope Paul VI, most known for his 1968 ban on contraception and visiting Israel before the Vatican officially recognized the Jewish state, will take place in October 2014. Although Paul VI has only one recognized miracle under his belt, it remains to be seen whether Pope Francis will waive the second miracle required for sainthood and fast-track Paul VI’s canonization as he did with John XXIII.
Making history last week, Michael Sam became the first openly gay player in the NFL when he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Although a few players expressed outrage when ESPN aired footage of Sam kissing his boyfriend as he received the news, that didn’t keep President Obama from congratulating the 24 year-old saying, “You should be judged by what you do and not who you are.”